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Blame the CRA

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"Blame the CRA"

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The editors of National Review want you to know that just because conservatives have been running the government is no reason you can’t blame liberals for the crises that break out on their watch:

Much more problematic than Gramm-Leach-Bliley is the Community Reinvestment Act, a bit of legislative arm-twisting much beloved by Sen. Obama and his fellow Democrats. One of the reasons so many bad mortgage loans were made in the first place is that Barack Obama’s celebrated community organizers make their careers out of forcing banks to do so. ACORN, for which Obama worked, is one of many left-wing organizations that spent decades pressuring banks and bank regulators to do more to make mortgages available to people without much in the way of income, assets, or credit. These campaigns often were couched in racially inflammatory terms. The result was the Community Reinvestment Act. The CRA empowers the FDIC and other banking regulators to punish those banks which do not lend to the poor and minorities at the level that Obama’s fellow community organizers would like. Among other things, mergers and acquisitions can be blocked if CRA inquisitors are not satisfied that their demands — which are political demands — have been met. There is a name for loans made to people who do not have the credit, assets, income, or down payment to qualify for a normal mortgage: subprime.

The technical term for this argument is “bullshit.”

For one thing, the timeline is ludicrous. The Community Reinvestment Act was passed in 1977. Are we supposed to believe that CRA was working smoothly throughout the Carter, Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton years and then only under Bush II did overzealous anti-”redlining” enforcement come into play, perhaps a result of Dubya’s legendarily close relationship with ACORN? Or maybe overzealous enforcement back in the late 1970s is somehow responsible for a real estate blowout that only materialized 30 years later? It doesn’t even come close to making sense.

Beyond that, the mere existence of “subprime” loans — i.e., mortgages given to less-creditworthy individuals at higher interest rates — isn’t the problem here. The problems have to do with what was done with the loans after they were packaged, sold and used to make leveraged plays.

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